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Gluten-free flour demand a boon for area businesses

Sorghum has an “ag” vantage as a cash crop

Staff writer

Gluten-free foods are popular, and Clay Tajchman of Ramona is meeting the demand by owning and operating mills in New Cambria and Abilene that produce sorghum flour.

Grain sorghum, also known as milo, is gluten-free and is not genetically modified, so it is in high demand by bakeries and food producers throughout the world.

Tajchman purchases the sorghum from area farmers who are under strict rules to keep their trucks and grain shipments free of any traces of wheat or soybeans. The grain passes through at least 20 steps to get to the final refined stage.

Most of the company’s sales are to large companies across the country, from Los Angeles to New Jersey, that purchase 40,000-pound truckloads of the flour. Tajchman processes 1,000 bushels a day and sells about 10 million pounds a year.

Flour also is exported to South Korea and Japan, and some shipments have gone to China.

Tajchman sells the flour in smaller quantities as well, but doesn’t have the help he needs to promote that end of the business. He said he could double the bushels processed if he could promote individual customer sales.

“It’s hard to find people who really want to work,” he said.

Tajchman’s daughter Chelsey Antoszyk and Alisha Backhus of Tampa provide some help, and he uses a temporary service to fill other worker needs.

His AgVantage Naturals website lists three products for sale. Sorghum flour can be purchased in 2- to 20-pound packages. A master blend is an all-purpose baking mix that includes rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, quinoa flour, and guar gum. It sells in 2- to 50-pound packages.

A cookie mix of rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla powder, and guar gum can be purchased in 20-ounce to 50-pound sizes.

Tajchman also produces Styrofoam packing peanuts from sorghum.

“Everything that can be made from corn can be made from sorghum,” he said.

Sorghum was used to make ethanol many years before being developed in the United States as a food source. Kansas is a leading producer. Sorghum is a major food source in Africa and parts of Asia.

Grain sorghum can be popped for a crunchy topping and the whole grain can be used to provide texture in food dishes.

Tajchman spent 30 years working at an Archer Daniels Midland milling facility in Salina before purchasing Agvantage Naturals five years ago. He said the first few years were touch and go, but the business is now generating a profit.

“I really enjoy this work,” Tajchman said. “I enjoy being my own boss.”

He and his wife Candace live on a small farm near Ramona. She is a support teacher at Centre Elementary School.

Last modified Nov. 14, 2019

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